Surrogate mum Michelle Green shares the emotional story of Charlotte and Amelie’s birth.
When I was 17, before I’d even thought about having children of my own, I watched a documentary about surrogacy. It followed a woman who became a surrogate for a couple who couldn’t conceive. It seemed an amazing, life-changing thing to be able to do.
But it wasn’t until years later, in 2013, when I’d had children of my own, that I seriously considered becoming a surrogate.
I’d spotted a friend’s post on Facebook about how she’d donated her eggs to a couple who couldn’t conceive. She’d changed their lives; it was the best gift in the world. What was stopping me from doing something like that?
I’d been lucky, I’d never experienced the heartache of infertility, plus both of my births were quick and straightforward. My husband Alan and I had two beautiful children – one of each – and weren’t planning any more. In my mind, the seed was sown.
‘What do you think?’ I tentatively asked Alan after searching online for surrogacy organisations. He promised to support me if it was what I wanted to do.
We went to a conference and met people whose lives had been transformed by surrogacy. ‘How can we not do this?’ he asked afterwards. He was as committed as I was.
In October 2013 we joined Surrogacy UK, an organisation that connects surrogates with intended parents, and supports them through the process. Its ethos is ‘friendship first’, encouraging members to build a rapport and trust before embarking on their surrogacy journey, which really appealed to us.
We met Caroline and Iain at one of the organisation’s social events. We instantly hit it off. And when we learned of their journey – several unsuccessful rounds of IVF over seven years – we knew we had to help them.
Surrogacy UK recommends a ‘getting to know you’ period of three months before starting the IVF process. We introduced Caroline and Iain to our kids and met regularly for days out. By the end of the three months we’d formed a strong friendship.
The four of us sat down with Surrogacy UK and drew up an agreement to make sure we were all ‘on the same page’. We agreed I’d have a natural IVF cycle, implanting two embryos made from Caroline’s eggs and Iain’s sperm, which had been frozen from previous rounds of IVF. They’d be the parents: I’d just be growing their baby.
We were lucky. Ten days after the two embryos had been implanted, we got a call from the fertility clinic to say the pregnancy test was positive.
I was thrilled for Caroline and Iain, and even more thrilled at the scan when we discovered there were two heartbeats!
Knowing I was carrying twins, such longed-for babies for another couple, felt like a huge responsibility. I was extra careful, making sure I ate well and rested. I felt a little more tired than with my own children, but it was a straightforward pregnancy.
The children loved seeing my bump grow, and were more accepting of the situation than some adults I knew. I explained it all to them in simple terms: ‘Caroline’s tummy’s broken, so I’m carrying her babies and will give them back to her when they’re born,’ I said.
By the time I’d got to 36 weeks I was enormous and struggling to walk. At an appointment with my consultant, I begged to be induced, and was booked in for 37 weeks plus one day. That morning, at 8am, I arrived on the hospital ward with Alan, Caroline and Iain. I’d never been induced before and felt a bit nervous about what was about to happen.
I could tell that Caroline and Iain were anxious too. We were greeted by two midwives who led us to the delivery suite and asked questions about our situation, which took an hour! The midwives were fascinated.
I was hooked up to a monitor, which showed I was having contractions – that was a surprise, as I wasn’t in any discomfort. By 12.30pm I learned I was 2cm dilated. The midwife explained she was going to try and break twin one’s waters, and when she pierced the amniotic sac the gush was like a waterfall! ‘Oops, sorry,’ I apologised every time I leaked.
An hour passed and I felt nothing but mild tightenings, although the monitor still showed I was contracting. At 1.45pm the midwife hooked me to a syntocinon drip to encourage labour, and increased the dose steadily over the next few hours. By 5pm my contractions started to get really intense and frequent.
I stood next to the bed, rocking my hips to ease the pressure in my bump and back. That’s when Alan became my rock. He rubbed my back and reminded me to breathe slowly. ‘You can do this,’ he told me whenever the contractions became intense.
Iain and Caroline popped out of the room every so often to chat to their parents, who’d arrived at hospital. To keep focussed, I blocked out everyone in the room except Alan. I was soon totally ‘in the zone’, and not really aware of anything other than my labour.
When I was examined again, I learned I was only 6-7cm dilated, and I started getting upset, worrying that I wasn’t coping. One of my other labours had taken just one hour, the other four hours: this was taking forever.
The midwife handed me some gas and air, and a few puffs of that, along with Alan’s words of encouragement, got me back on track. Soon I started to feel one twin’s head getting lower, and felt an overwhelming urge to bear down. ‘Don’t push yet!’ the midwife said. One side of my cervix was dilating at a different rate to the other – I was lopsided.
Trying not to push when my body was telling me to was almost impossible, but deep breathing and using the gas and air to calm myself helped keep me focussed and strong. Finally, the midwife said my cervix had evened out and I could start pushing. It was a relief when I lay back on the bed and started to bear down, holding Alan’s hand and mooing like a cow.
At 7.40pm, on just my second push, I felt enormous pressure and baby Charlotte’s head came out, then her body.
There was a flurry of activity, and after a few minutes of checks at the side of the room, she was pronounced healthy. Seeing Caroline and Iain’s tearful faces was incredible. I could hardly believe they’d become parents at last.
There was no time to dwell on it, though. A doctor stood over me, holding my stomach to prevent the second twin from moving out of position.
My contractions had stopped, but the team reassured me that everything would kick off again soon. I lay still while Alan held my hand, and Caroline and Iain cuddled baby Charlotte. Sure enough, after a few minutes, a huge contraction swept through my bump. It was 7.50pm and I followed my body’s instructions to bear down. To everyone’s surprise, with just one big push, baby Amelie shot out.
I lay back while Amelie was checked, wrapped and handed to Iain, while Caroline held Charlotte. Seeing the looks of sheer joy on Caroline and Iain’s faces made me feel like the most privileged person in the world.
‘We’ve done it!’ I mouthed to them, bursting into tears. Once I’d delivered the placentas and had recovered, the staff left so that just the four of us – plus the twins – were in the room together. Alan took newborn photos, and Caroline and Iain had skin-to-skin cuddles with the twins, and gave them their first bottle feeds. After that special time, Alan and I left the new family alone.
I was able to get some much-needed uninterrupted sleep at home, which felt great.
I was on cloud nine that day, and still feel incredibly proud of what I was able to achieve for Caroline and Iain. We’re still the best of friends and are in touch most days, which is fantastic. Seeing the twins grow, and knowing I played such a significant part in their birth, is incredible.
Being a surrogate is quite addictive, and I’m already planning to help another couple have a baby. As long as I’m healthy, I’ll carry on. To me, if you can do something to make other people’s dreams come true, then why wouldn’t you?